Double-deck cattle trailer tipped in Berne

— Photo from Charles Tommell Jr.

Young cattle are released from a long double-decker trailer that turned on its side as its driver tried to negotiate Rock Road in Berne on Tuesday before noon. A total of 11 animals were reported dead as a result of the accident.

— Photo from Charles Tommell Jr.

Unbroken: Emergency responders stand by an overturned tractor trailer on April 15. The hood of the truck was damaged, but it came down so slowly on  a utility pole on Rock Road in Berne, its driver, Michael Volmering said, that no windows were broken.

BERNE — Several animals were killed Tuesday morning when a tractor trailer pulling two decks of 104 cattle tipped on its side as it drove around a bend on Rock Road.

The 18-wheeler was turning onto Route 1 before it fell onto a utility pole, according to Captain James Goss of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.

Neither the driver, Michael Volmering, nor his wife, who was riding in the truck, were injured, Volmering said. He was ticketed for unreasonable or imprudent speeding for the road conditions, an infraction, Goss said.

“It’s a pretty sharp curb there, because you’re on the hill. If you’re in the left lane there, it tilts toward the ditch,” said Volmering. He looked in the passenger mirror and saw the wheels lift off the ground. “Just over it went,” he said.

Several cattle were dead at the scene, and others had to be euthanized by a veterinarian due to their injuries; a total of 11 were killed as a result of the accident, said Goss. The young feeder cattle were from Tommell Cattle Company on Rock Road, and were to be taken by Volmering to a feedlot in Kansas, said Charles Tommell Jr., the farm’s owner. Feeder cattle are steers or heifers old enough to be placed on a feedlot for fattening before slaughter.

Firefighters had to tear through the metal roof of the trailer with partner saws in order to release cattle trapped inside, and they spread panels with Jaws of Life, said Dave Clark, assistant chief of the Berne Fire District.

“The neighbors, they were extremely helpful,” Volmering said of at least seven people who came. “They were out there instantly.”

As people helped release the cattle into a nearby field, Clark said, farmers with trailers rounded them up.

Tommell said about $10,000 had been lost on Tuesday, but surviving cattle could show the affects of the accident in the following days. Volmering, of R & M Volmering Trucking in Harbor Beach, Mich., has cargo insurance, through which Tommell will seek claims, he said.

Tommell said animal-rights activists sometimes call in similar situations.

“Cattle and livestock are at the center of my occupation and business,” Tommell said. “I do take their lives very seriously. We take very good care of them while they’re in our hands.”

Volmering said he and his wife have transported livestock for around 20 years, and he’s never had a driving accident until Tuesday. The external hood of his truck needs to be replaced, he said, but the engine, frame, and fuel tanks weren’t damaged.

“He’s a professional driver with over three million miles on his record, an unblemished record, with livestock, almost all his life,” Tommell said of Volmering.

The truck and trailer were righted by Eagle Towing and Recovery Co. from Cobleskill. They had a series of winches, using two trucks, to lift the vehicle from its side, said Clark.

More Hilltowns News

  • The local law, which will be subject to a public hearing in February, would transform the assessor’s office to make it more like that of most other municipalities in New York State by concentrating assessment authority in the hands of one person who’s appointed rather than three people who are elected.

  • A man riding his snowmobile with friends on an abandoned ski slope in Berne was critically injured after he lost control of his vehicle. Because deep snow prevented an ambulance from reaching him, the local fire departments relied on all-terrain vehicles and utility task vehicles to make the rescue, with assistance from Albany County and the Helderberg Ambulance squad. 

  • After Albany County withdrew its offer to purchase Switzkill Farm in Berne because it became apparent that the property needed substantial investment, it offered to help “secure” the buildings on the property to prevent further deterioration while the county focused on other projects, according to county spokeswoman Mary Rozak, but Berne officials “didn’t want any part of that.” 

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